July 6, 2017 City Council Regular Meeting (Amended July 5, 2017)
Motion to Approve Resolution Accepting the Short-term Vacation Rental Report

In early 2017, the City launched a process to address concerns about the growing short-term vacation rental industry’s impact on residents and the community. The goal was to examine the use, identify issues, and propose mutually agreed upon revisions to the existing regulations. The process did not focus on expanding the use, nor did it focus on the rental of a bedroom in an owner-occupied home, referred to as a bed and breakfast homestay. It only considered the rental of an entire dwelling unit in the areas where the use is currently permitted.

Individual meetings were held with stakeholders to include the Downtown Neighborhood Association, Victorian Neighborhood Association and Mid-City District. Additional meetings were held with Share Savannah, which represents five local short-term vacation rental management companies; Short-Term Vacation Rental Owners Association; Tourism Leadership Council and Expedia/HomeAway. Meetings were also held with concerned citizens about possible changes to the regulations.

In May and June, eight public meetings were held with representatives from the stakeholder groups and citizens with a total of 333 persons participating. 

Based on feedback from stakeholders, the City broke down the use into two key areas:

  1. Administrative enhancements focusing on the short-term vacation rental ordinance and methods to improve operations
  2. Growth management concentrating on the zoning regulations and methods to manage the growth of the use

The report outlines the proposed revisions to the zoning ordinance and regulatory code for the short-term vacation rentals based on the feedback gathered during the review process.

Recommendations are as follows:

Administrative Enhancements

  • Requiring insurance documentation indicating the dwelling unit is used as a short-term vacation rental
  • Modifying exemplar rental agreement to include:

– Maximum occupancy and off-street parking location

– Post exemplar rental agreement in short-term vacation rental property

  • Posting exemplar rental agreement on any website where the short-term vacation rental property is advertised
  • Requiring the property owner of a condominium, as defined by State law, provide a copy of the condominium declaration approving the use of the premise for short-term rentals
  • Revising ordinance to notify owners of record who are adjacent to an initial short-term vacation rental. Certificates will not be issued until this process is completed and will be completed by the applicant. Notification will include address of the proposed short-term rental, location of proposed on-site parking, occupancy requirements, copy of the short term vacation rental house policies, name of property owner, and name of rental agent company and contact information.

Growth Management Strategies

  • Reducing the number of persons who can stay at a short-term vacation rental. The proposal is to have the number of occupants not exceed four adults for a one-bedroom dwelling unit or two adults per bedroom for a dwelling unit with more than one bedroom. It is recommended this specific revision becomes effective on January 1, 2018 to allow for short-term vacation rental owners and rental agents to recognize existing reservations and provide time to make the necessary adjustments.
  • Implementing a cap of no more than 20% of the total number of property identification numbers located within any ward in the following districts may have non-owner occupied vacation rental permits:
    • Historic District: RIP; RIP-A-1; RIP-B; RIP-B-1; RIP-C; RIP-D; and I-P; R-D;
    • Victorian District: 1-R; 2-R; and 3-R; and
    • Mid-City District: TN-2.

(Note staff has requested that the attorneys involved with deliberations provide a proposal as to the method of quantification as well as discussion on the legal defensibility of imposing a cap. These reports must be vetted by the City Attorney’s Office prior to moving forward with this particular recommendation.)

  • Re-establishing the property as a certified short-term vacation rental would be reduced from twelve months to six month when the property transfers ownership and when the per-ward cap is maximized. After the six month period elapses, the property owner may use the dwelling unit as a short-term vacation rental provided the dwelling is owner-occupied.
  • Changing the language in the Mid-City Ordinance to state that in the TN-2 district, a short-term vacation rental is permitted only where a principal dwelling unit is owner-occupied, another dwelling unit [only one] on the same parcel may be used as an short-term vacation rental.
  • Exploring the option of creating a blight exemption certificate for short-term vacation rentals.

Other Enhancements

Best practices are also part of the recommendations and include: creating additional guidelines for best practices and provided to property owners and rental managers during application process; developing an online form for property owners and rental agents to report complaints; posting information on the exemplar rental agreement on the City’s website; and creating a brochure for residents about short-term vacation rentals.

Next Steps

The goal is to provide revisions to Chapter 11, Short-term Vacation Rentals, to City Council as a First Reading on July 20, 2017, with Second Reading to be held August 17, 2017. The City will work with stakeholders to establish best practices, post an online complaint form, add information on the exemplar rental agreement on the City’s website and create a neighborhood brochure by August 4.

As the growth management recommendations require amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, the following timeline is proposed for these revisions based on consideration by MPC and City Council:

  • Submit Request to MPC: By July 12
  • Present to MPC: August 8
  • Advertisement of Zoning Revision: August 15
  • City Council 1st Reading: August 31
  • City Council 2nd Reading: September 14
Bridget Lidy, Tourism Management and Ambassadorship Director
Financial Impact
Review Comments
Short-term Vacation Rental Report.pdf
Attachment A. Short-term Vacation Rental Zoning Bulletin.pdf
Attachment B. Short-term Rental Ordinance.pdf
Attachment C. Short-term Vacation Rental Application.pdf
Attachment D. National Trust for Historic Preservation Statment on Short-term Vacation Rentals.pdf
Attachment E. Revisions to the Short-term Vacation Rental Ordinance.pdf
Attachment G. Memorandum to City Council Preliminary STVR Regulation Revisions and Stakeholder Comments.pdf
Attachment H. STVR Maps and Data.pdf
Attachment F. Short-term Vacaton Rental Regulations from Other Communities.pdf
Agenda Plus